Director of Operations Services & Projects, Schneider Electric
Sarah Jane Hannon
Global Offer Management Director, Schneider Electric
Customer Project Technical Engineer (Power Systems), Schneider Electric
How – and why – a global energy management and automation specialist is taking practical steps to increase its intake of women STEM graduates.
After her engineering degree, Silvia Martini was looking for the next steps in her career. “I was looking for a company that would give me the chance to do some good in the world, where diversity and inclusion were important and women were supported,” says Silvia. So, she decided to join Schneider Electric’s graduate programme.
“Now I have completed the graduate training and have started work as a Customer Project Technical Engineer I can see that the company takes this seriously. There are plenty of women in the company, and Schneider believes in work/life balance too.”
Employing women at all levels
It is a policy which appeals to women graduates seeking STEM careers.
Global Software Product Management Director Sarah Jane Hannon who works from Schneider’s Galway office says: “As a company, we are increasing the number of women employed at all levels. However, the reality is that women still only make up around a quarter of the current tech workforce and female talent is more difficult to find in our sector.” At present headcount data shows the Schneider workforce in Ireland is 38% female, with 38% in management roles and above.
Rhonda Doyle, Director of Operations, Services and Projects, and a member of the Ireland country management team, says: “We target a 50% gender split amongst our graduate and early-career recruitment intake. Between April 2019 and April 2020, we increased the number of female graduate hires from 54% to 62%.”
Meanwhile Schneider has hit its HeForShe IMPACT Corporate Champion targets. “We hit our 40% at entry-level (41%) and 30% in top positions (38% Executive Committee) in 2020,” says Rhonda.
Silvia thinks one of the problems is that STEM subjects are seen as difficult. “Lots of people think STEM is hard and involves lots of maths, which some are afraid of,” Silvia says. “But maths was just one part of my engineering course. Now I am at work, seeing how maths is applied in our projects means it makes more sense and it’s easier to understand.”
Programme of variety and experience
Schneider offers a 12-month graduate programme, involving two rotations, where graduates have the opportunity to work in different roles across its UK and Ireland offices, ranging from marketing, sales, tendering, project management and more.
Silvia says: “I did marketing and then engineering rotations. Now as a project technical engineer I help give technical support to the Power Systems business unit team. I work with a project manager on things like a client’s data centre project, new building or device configuration and sometimes we go out on site, which I like.
“There’s a lot of problem solving, which is satisfying, and you can look at an installation and know that you were a part of that which is rewarding. I’ve been inspired by many of the smart engineers and project managers at Schneider and the company’s dedication to sustainability.”
Diversity brings benefits, says Sarah Jane. “Greater diversity in teams means our products and services appeal to a more diverse range of customers. In our software department we have women engineers, cybersecurity experts, project managers and product managers, working together with their male counterparts. Mixed teams bring a diversity of perspectives.”
Not just for graduates
Rhonda is working with local colleges on the Schneider Electric scholarships and encouraging more female applicants.
She says: “We are connected with local colleges where we give talks about STEM careers and introduce students to role models such as Silvia.
“We also offer scholarships and placements across the country office to university students, and we are looking to support more STEM and tech-related links with schools and bring in a formal work experience scheme.”